What it costs to maintain your car
The cost of owning the vehicle adds up. When it comes time to buy your next car, you need to consider the true cost of owning the vehicle – trips to the mechanic included. While getting your oil changed or tire replacement both cost, AAA found that drivers are investing an average of $9,666 in their cars in 2021. That’s an increase of $279 from the previous year, and as gas prices also rise, it’s important to be prepared for vehicle costs when budgeting for the car that’s right for you.
Car maintenance key statistics
- The average cost of running a new car in 2021 was $9,666
- The average driver spends $1,771 a year on comprehensive auto insurance
- License, registration and vehicle taxes cost $699 per year
- Drivers of newer vehicles should have their oil changed every 5,000 to 7,500 miles
- 1 in 3 drivers cannot afford unscheduled repairs to their vehicle
- 7.9% of drivers delayed routine vehicle maintenance
Organizing routine vehicle maintenance keeps your car running as it should and, by extension, protects you and your passengers. Maintenance costs vary by vehicle type and age, but there are some basics that almost every car needs.
Typically, your vehicle will need a visit to the mechanic for general service every 5,000 miles or so from that point. But it’s a good idea to do your own research and consult your owner’s manual for more details on your car’s needs.
Although vehicle mechanics are there to help you, they are also all about making money. So while much of the upkeep requires professional help, consider what you can manage at home to save money.
|Drain||Every 5,000 to 7,500 miles||$35 to $75|
|Basic inspection||Every 5,000 miles||$150 to $250|
|Tire rotation||Every 5,000 to 8,000 miles||$24 to $100|
|Wiper replacement||Every six months||$10 to $45|
|Replacement of brake pads||Every 10,000 to 20,000 miles||$115 to $300|
Replacement of parts
Throughout the life of your vehicle, it is likely that you will need to replace specific parts. This could be due to general wear and tear or larger issues.
Whatever the reason, the price of a replacement depends on the part to be replaced. This cost is based on a number of factors. Two of these factors are the type of vehicle – luxury vehicles whose parts cost more – and market cost. Consumers are also directly affected by increased costs due to inflation and the availability of auto parts.
Mechanics often don’t just have extra batteries, transmissions, or brakes on hand and instead need to order them. Unfortunately, you have to prepare for higher than normal replacement costs due to an increase in the price of vehicle materials. Just as pandemic-related supply chain issues have created fewer available cars, so have parts.
|vehicle part||Frequency||Expected cost|
|New tires||Every six years or between 25,000 and 80,000 miles||$45 to $250 each|
|Replacing the air filter (engine and cabin)||Every 15,000 to 30,000||$35 to $80|
|Replacement of brake pads||Every 10,000 to 20,000 miles||$115 to $370|
Common delays have been reported for brake pads, batteries, filters and some tires. With fewer parts available, expect to pay more — a 20% increase from 2021, according to Michael Chung, director of market intelligence at the Auto Care Association. Over time, the price of auto parts has also increased.
There are surprise costs associated with owning a vehicle. It could be an unexpected spill staining your car’s interior or something more serious like a fender bender. Either way, it’s important to save some extra money in case unexpected repairs come up.
AAA found that nearly one in three drivers cannot afford to pay a bill for an unscheduled repair. While these costs are mostly out of your control, you can save future stress by budgeting for the worst case scenario.
It’s also wise to shop around and find a repair shop with a good reputation and fair prices. Contact your insurance company and see what is covered before spending money on a repair. Here is an overview of common repairs that may occur and the costs associated with them.
|Unexpected repair||Expected cost|
|Punctured or punctured tire||$10 to $250|
|transmission problem||$1,200 to $6,000|
|Weather damage||$1,000 to $3,500|
|Minor collisions||$50 to $3,000|
|Motor overheating||$100 to $1,500|
|Dead battery||$45 to $350|
|Broken starter||$80 to $1,100|
Cost per brand
The door price of a premium vehicle is higher than that of a standard car, and the maintenance that comes with it will also come at a higher cost. You will also likely have to manage maintenance at a specific dealership when it comes to repairing a luxury vehicle, rather than a more local, private option. Dealership experience tends to be more expensive, but it offers the convenience of mechanics who specialize in your car’s make and model.
While it may seem obvious that mid-range and high-end vehicles require high-end maintenance, this is not always the case. Take Dodge, for example – despite being a mid-level option, the annual maintenance cost reaches close to the level that Mercedes drivers have to pay.
Consider a vehicle’s value, which can come down to how many times you’ll have to take it to the body shop. And check the average annual costs accompanied by different vehicle brands to better understand how much a car will cost you over the lifetime of ownership.
|Vehicle brand||Annual maintenance cost for a 10 year old car|
Consumer Reports 2020 Annual Automotive Survey
Cost by vehicle type
Although the brand of the vehicle clearly influences the cost of its maintenance, the type of vehicle is also an important determining factor. Below is the average cost of owning a vehicle over five years and 75,000 miles.
AAA found this cost by calculating depreciation, financing, fuel, insurance, registration, registration and taxes and maintenance, repairs and tires. The lowest cost winner for vehicle maintenance goes to electric vehicles, while the half-ton pickup is the most expensive to maintain.
|Vehicle type||Cost of ownership in cents per mile|
|Half Ton Pickup||77.25|
AAA 2021 Your driving expenses
As these prices illustrate, vehicle maintenance is based on a number of factors and there is no perfect recipe for finding a cheap car. But an electric vehicle or a smaller vehicle tends to cost less. Electric vehicles are increasingly available on the market and can be a great option for drivers looking for lower maintenance costs.
Vehicle maintenance is an inescapable reality that accompanies the ownership of a vehicle. But by understanding the average costs associated with routine maintenance and repairs, replacing vehicle parts, and how the price varies by make and type of vehicle, you can budget for these costs accurately. This is especially true in today’s automotive market which is saturated with inflated costs and expensive parts. Do your mechanical research and always consult your owner’s manual to confirm that you are following your vehicle’s specific needs.—